Ireland’s capital city of Dublin attracts almost 10 million overseas tourists every year, which is a colossal amount of people. 10 million foreigners all drinking pint after pint of Guinness, learning about their dubious Irish heritage and wandering through St Stephen’s Green complaining about the miserable weather. But if you want to delve deeper into Irish culture to have a more meaningful adventure, here are some amazing films set in Dublin to watch before you go.
The stories featured in Dublin’s film history are split 50/50. Half of the films produced in this thriving capital are historical and concentrate on narratives about the Irish Revolution and IRA. No one is surprised there! Those films are great and help provide context to travellers, especially if you know zero about either topic. But the other half is my favourite half. My favourite films set in Dublin are the indies that shine a light on working-class Dublin residents trying to make something of themselves. Wonderfully, most of these films involve lots of music. And if the stereotype rings true, Dubliners are bloody good musicians.
So whether you’ve already visited Dublin and want to keep the good times going, or maybe you’re planning a trip to Dublin and want to get excited and learn more about the city’s history and culture before you go, I’ve got you covered! Here are 16 films that will make you want to visit Dublin for sure.
Top Films set in Dublin
1. Juno and the Paycock (1930) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Language: English Run time: 94m 24% Rotten Tomatoes
One of the earliest films set in Dublin I’m going to feature on this list is also the most poorly rated. My bad. I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen Juno and the Paycock but since it’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock I assumed it would be good.
I’m including it because Juno and the Paycock was adapted from the extremely successful play by Seán O’Casey. The film (and play) follows a working-class family living in Dublin in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. They come into some money and forget all about their good moral values and the unrest happening outside of their doors.
I think it’s badly reviewed because the set-up is very much like Hitchcock has just filmed a stage production and the result is not very cinematic. But if you’re a fan of classic cinema and you’re planning a trip to Dublin, I think it would be an enjoyable watch. If you haven’t already figured it out, Juno and the Paycock was not shot on location in Dublin. Like most of Hitchcock’s early movies, he filmed it at Elstree Studios just north of London.
2. Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) dir. Michael Anderson
Language: English Run time: 111m 67% Rotten Tomatoes
Another classic movie also focusing on the Irish Republican Army in the 1920s, Shake Hands with the Devil was actually shot in Dublin! Well, a lot of the scenes were shot in Ardmore Studios in Bray, County Wicklow which is Ireland’s main film studios. But some scenes were shot on location at notable Dublin sites like Trinity College and Phoenix Park.
Shake Hands with the Devil follows the lives of a few IRA members as they fight the British, lead by the high-ranking IRA commander Dr Sean Lenihan played by James Cagney.
I know these films don’t sound like the best films set in Dublin to make you want to visit. They’re mainly about war, death and political unrest, after all. BUT I do think it’s important to be somewhat aware of a country or city’s recent history before you visit. Even if most of that knowledge is through fictional films!
3. Girl with Green Eyes (1964) dir. Desmond Davis
Language: English Run time: 91m 80% Rotten Tomatoes
Girl with Green Eyes reminds me of many British films in the 1960s (specifically Taste of Honey (1961) which has the same lead actress) because it’s a typical kitchen sink drama about working-class people with a not-so-happy ending.
It follows Kate, a young rural Irish girl who has just left school and moved to the big city. She meets a worldly older, married gentleman who she starts spending time with him. The film touches on many themes particularly Catholicism and female independence at this time against the backdrop of the industrial, gritty Dublin residential neighbourhoods.
The film is shot entirely on location and features locations like O’Connell Bridge, Great South Wall and a few other locations that have unfortunately closed down. This is the last ‘classic’ film set in Dublin on this list and I love that it doesn’t focus on the IRA and the war for independence. There is so much more to Dublin!
Also, I flipping love that this is a black and white film and it’s called Girl with the Green Eyes. No one could think of a more appropriate title?!
4. The Dead (1987) dir. John Huston
Language: English Run time: 83m 93% Rotten Tomatoes
American director John Huston seemed to really love the Emerald Isle. He gave up his American citizenship to become a naturalised Irish citizen in the 1960s and made a few films over there. The Dead was his last film and it was a family affair. His son Tony wrote the screenplay based on a short story by renowned Irish author James Joyce and starred his daughter Anjelica. Though it is nowhere near his best film, there are far worse swansongs than The Dead.
Set in January 1904, two sisters host a dinner party at their townhouse in Dublin. The film covers the events and revelations that occur over that one evening thanks to it’s colourful and fascinating characters.
It’s a gripping period drama about jealousy, resentment and lost love. The Dead is a great film and a great way to spend 90 minutes! Plus, filming locations in Dublin include Ha’penny Bridge, Temple Bar and Usher’s Island.
5. The Commitments (1991) dir. Alan Parker
Language: English Run time: 118m 89% Rotten Tomatoes
When I casually mentioned to two different people that I was writing a blog post about films set in Dublin, their response was “you need to include The Commitments!” Like, obviously I’m going to include The Commitments. It may not be my favourite Dublin-set film or even my favourite Dublin-set film about a band (more on that later!) but it’s cult following means The Commitments is a film you cannot ignore.
Part of a trilogy named The Barrytown Trilogy (also featuring The Snapper (1993) and the far lesser The Van (1996)), The Commitments is about a man named Jimmy Rabbitte who forms a soul band in Dublin’s Northside by holding open auditions at his house.
It won four BAFTA awards, spawned two hit soundtracks and some people regard it as the best Irish film ever made. Not only that, but it was entirely shot in Dublin and there are tonnes of Dublin filming locations you can visit. Just a few of the locations include St Francis Xavier’s Church, The Waterside Bar and Sheriff Street. You absolutely must watch this film before you visit Dublin! Consider yourself told.
6. In the Name of the Father (1993) dir. Jim Sheridan
Language: English Run time: 133m 94% Rotten Tomatoes
Following a cracker of a film with another absolute cracker, In the Name of the Father is also one of Ireland’s best films (directed by one of Ireland’s premier filmmakers, Jim Sheridan). The 1990s were an amazing time for Irish cinema as there were at least six critically-acclaimed, successful films released almost back-to-back that gained international attention.
In the Name of the Father is based on the true story of the 1974 Guildford Pub bombings. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Gerry Conlon, a man who was coerced into signing a confession by the police which also incriminates his father and the two are falsely imprisoned. It’s a fantastic film and was nominated for tonnes of Academy Awards.
I have to admit, the film is set in London and Belfast so I really shouldn’t have included on this list of films set in Dublin. But the jail scenes were shot in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, Ireland’s most famous prison which is now the number one attraction in Dublin. And I like that the film dramatises a true story about the conflicts between the loyalists and republicans so you feel like you’re actually learning something.
7. Michael Collins (1996) dir. Neil Jordan
Language: English Run time: 132m 77% Rotten Tomatoes
Another one of those popular 1990s Irish films was, of course, Michael Collins. This movie is a historical biopic and one of the best films set in Dublin to watch if you like rousing, inspiring period dramas about important moments in history. The titular man main, Michael Collins, was an Irish revolutionary who led the fight against the British and was instrumental in the formation of the Irish Free State and led the Irish Civil War. He was a hell of a dude, and clearly a hero in the eyes of the Irish.
Michael Collins is one of the biggest films to be made in Ireland and stars notable Irish actor Liam Neeson as well as the likes of Julia Roberts and Charles Dance. And despite being a period film, most of Michael Collins shot on location in Dublin! Which is awesome! Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, Trinity College, Kilmainham Jail and so many other Dublin landmarks and streets feature in the film. Watching Michael Collins will definitely get you excited about visiting Dublin.
8. The General (1998) dir. John Boorman
Language: English Run time: 124m 82% Rotten Tomatoes
A lesser-known Irish film about a lesser-known Irish figure, The General is a bit of an obscure choice for this list. But if you love modern, black and white gangster films starring Brendon Gleeson and Jon Voight then you are gonna be all up in this film’s business.
Mark Cahill is a Dublin crime boss (yes, I didn’t think organised crime was a ‘thing’ in Ireland either, but what do I know) who committed several robberies and ended up on on the police, the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. You know, if they had them.
Bizarrely, director John Boorman was a victim of the real-life Mark Cahill’s dodgy dealings. If that little factoid doesn’t want to make you hunt down this fairly hard-to-find movie then I don’t know what will! The General is also set and filmed almost entirely in Dublin and County Wicklow.
9. Agnes Browne (1999) dir. Anjelica Huston
Languages: English, French Run time: 92m 41% Rotten Tomatoes
Anjelica Huston’s second entry on the list, and this time she’s both in front and behind the camera! Yeah, it’s not a highly-regarded film, but it was really bothering me that I didn’t have any female-directed film on this list. Plus, this film has an interesting backstory. It’s based on the book The Mammy by Brendan O’Carroll. If you’re British, you may know him as the mastermind behind the incredibly annoying TV show Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Yes, Huston is playing yet another version of whomever this Mrs Brown/e is.
When Agnes Browne’s husband unexpectantly passes away in 1967, she is forced to provide for her seven children living in Dublin with no means to do so. The film is a lot more light-hearted and funny than the premise suggests and Agnes soon finds romance, friendship and Tom Jones. Huston is excellent as Agnes Browne, which was faithfully shot in Dublin.
10. About Adam (2000) dir. Gerard Stembridge
Language: English Run time: 105m 68% Rotten Tomatoes
This is SUCH a quintessential low-budget noughties romantic comedy. Some of my favourite wanderlust-inspiring films are from the early noughties (I’m looking at you, Mary-Kate and Ashley) and About Adam gives me all of those sweet flares-and-corduroy vibes.
Adam is your classic f*ckboy, sorry, player, who first becomes involved with a waitress before moving onto her bookish sister, her older married sister and even her brother. About Adam is set and shot entirely in Dublin. And honestly, it’s so much better than you think it’s going to be. Definitely a film to watch before your trip to Dublin if you too were a child of the noughties. Or, if you can look passed the horrific style choices we all made in that decade. And it even stars Kate Hudson!
11. Adam & Paul (2004) dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Language: English Run time: 85m N/A Rotten Tomatoes
A bit of an obscure, weird indie film but a hilarious one! Adam & Paul is a day-in-the-life of two heroin addicts trying to score in Dublin. The film follows their escapades as they run into friends and think up with creative and inventive yet utterly stupid ways to get their next fix.
Not very wanderlust inspiring? Not making you want to visit Dublin? I’d argue that the Irish’s trademark black humour is enough to make anyone want to be friends with as many Dubliners as possible. Since Adam & Paul shot entirely on location, you can spot St Stephen’s Green as well as many other Dublin streets and landmarks throughout the film.
12. Once (2007) dir. John Carney
Language: English Run time: 86m 97% Rotten Tomatoes
Once is one of the most successful underdog films of the 21st-century. Shot on an amateur camera for pennies, director John Carney managed to craft a film with powerful storytelling and so much heart that it became an Oscar-winning hit and was adapted into a hugely successful Broadway musical. It’s one of the best films set in Dublin, ever.
Guy is a heartbroken busker who dreams of recording and performing his own music but he doesn’t have the motivation or money. Girl is a Czech woman living with her daughter and mother in a small, city flat. They serendipitously meet, lift each other out of their funks and create beautiful tunes together.
It’s a masterpiece of low, low budget indie filmmaking and shot aaaaall over the city of Dublin. If you wanna know exactly where they are, I wrote a whole blog post detailing them. Including a map!
13. Albert Nobbs (2011) dir. Rodrigo García
Language: English Run time: 113m 56% Rotten Tomatoes
Albert Nobbs isn’t one of the better films set in Dublin, but it is still an enjoyable, recent film both set and shot in Dublin. Glenn Close plays the titular character who is a woman posing as a man in the 1800s so she can be independent and self-sufficient. When she discovers another woman living the same lie, they become friends. The actors are definitely a highlight in Albert Nobbs and Glenn Close was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
14. The F Word/What If? (2013) dir. Michael Dowse
Language: English Run time: 102m 73% Rotten Tomatoes
Named The F Word in most countries and What If? in the UK (maybe because they’d think we’d get this romantic comedy confused with a Gordon Ramsay cooking show), most of the film is set in Ontario, Canada. However, a few key scenes are set and shot in Dublin. It’s a really cute movie and definitely worth watching if you love romcoms!
Daniel Radcliffe plays the single Wallace and Zoe Kazan plays Chantry, a girl crazy in love with her boyfriend. After meeting at a party one night, they accidentally become friends. When Chantry’s boyfriend moves to Dublin with work for six months, Wallace and Chantry end up hanging out more. I think we all know where this is going…
Both Chantry and Wallace end up in Dublin at one point or another. One of the most notable locations is the Stag’s Head Pub in Dublin’s Temple Bar, a very stereotypical-looking Irish Pub. And everyone’s favourite filming location is also featured… Yup, it’s Trinity College making yet another film appearance!
15. Love, Rosie (2014) dir. Christian Ditter
Language: English Run time: 102m 33% Rotten Tomatoes
Love, Rosie is one of the sappiest, eye-roll inducing, colour-by-numbers romantic film in existence. It’s not good, and it’s not even set in Dublin. It can’t be. I don’t think the setting is explicitly mentioned, but all of the characters have English accents. However, it was still heavily filmed in Dublin, for whatever reason. The whole logistics of this film make no sense, much like Love, Rosie‘s plot.
However, some of the most well-loved, travel-inspiring films are also the sh*ttest films generally. I’m looking at you, P.S. I Love You. And the author behind that book adaptation also wrote the novel that inspired Love, Rosie, so that figures. In the film, Alex and Rosie have been friends since they were five. And thanks to a series of events and miscommunication, they fail to express their feelings for one another. Love, Rosie was also partially filmed in Toronto, Canada as well as Ireland.
I hope I’m being very clear: This is not a good film. I’m recommending this film to very specific people. Basically, if you liked P.S. I Love You, you may also like this film. I am recommending this film to NO ONE else. However, there are some rather lovely Dublin locations featured in this film though such as Tara Hall Guest House just outside of the city, Dublin Airport, The Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green and the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel.
16. Sing Street (2016) dir. John Carney
Language: English Run time: 106m 95% Rotten Tomatoes
I’m finishing up my awesome Dublin films recommendations with my favourite of the lot! I watched Sing Street on my first visit to Dublin in 2016 at the Irish Film Institute and it’s one of my favourite cinematic experiences ever. It was so cool to watch a film in the city where it was filmed.
Sing Street is set in the 1980s and follows young Conor who has to move to a working-class Catholic school when his parents fall on hard times and are on the brink of divorce. When he discovers a gorgeous girl living across the street from his new school, Conor decides to start his own band so he can ask her to star in the music videos. The result is a love letter to 80s music, teen friendship, chasing your dreams and working-class Dublin residents. It doesn’t get any better than Sing Street.
There are some fantastic filming locations in Dublin and County Dublin in Sing Street. I’ve also written a blog post featuring all the top locations (plus a map) so you can find them all!
Other films set in Dublin: Beloved Enemy (1936), Ulysses (1967), Quackser Fortune has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970), My Left Foot (1989), A Man of No Importance (1994), The Last of the High Kings (1996), Nora (2000), On the Edge (2001), Evelyn (2002), Veronica Guerin (2003), Intermission (2003), Trouble With Sex (2005), Kisses (2008), Perrier’s Bounty (2009), A Film with Me in It (2008), Haywire (2011), Between the Canals (2011), What Richard Did (2012)
And those are some of the best films set in Dublin to inspire you to visit! Have you watched any of these films or would you add any to the list? Let me know in the comments below!